Interviews can be daunting, and leave the most confident person with clammy hands and a racing heart. The good news is that most interviews follow the same or similar format and interestingly a lot of the same questions come up frequently. The more interviews you have, the more relaxed you will become. The top tip is to ensure that whatever prep you have done, ensure your answers are biased toward the company and job role you are interviewing for.
The questions in an interview are all, very basically about fact-finding. They are all about you; your experiences, your opinions, your aspirations and your qualities and personality traits. So which ones come up time and time again and how can you answer them.
1 - Tell us about yourself
Whilst this is a great opener and icebreaker, it is also a clever way of establishing how well you communicate. The vagueness of the question can stifle some; and whilst your interviewer will want to learn more about you and what makes you tick, keep it succinct and relevant. Your response here should be a brief overview of you, hinting at previous roles (if relevant), the experience you have to date and how it has led you to applying for this role. Be articulate, concise and get them interested in you.
2 - What do you know about us?
Never go into an interview without researching the company first. A lot of people think if they are familiar with the job role that will suffice. In short, it won’t. If you can’t be bothered to find out more about the company you are approaching to work in, it screams of disinterest. And how do you know if you are a good fit culturally, or your experience matches what they as a business do? When researching the company, try and find useful information that can draw a parallel with previous companies you have worked for. Most importantly, you need to like and believe in what they do and articulate that passion.
3 - What attracted you to this role?
Employers recruit people who have experience, but who also genuinely seem to be passionate about the job. You should always be prepared for why you want this job type question. What part of the role is an excellent match for you? What was it about the role that motivated you to apply to it, (I love working with people and meeting new people each day in a customer facing role), and talk about the company too, as the role and company come hand in hand.
4 - Why should we recruit you?
Here the interviewer is really asking ‘what makes you the most suitable candidate for this job?’ This is very much the question where you have to take a deep breath, and sell yourself. Demonstrate you have the necessary experience to do the job, you can fit into their company culture and you are the perfect fit for both.
5 - Why are you looking for a new job?
Whatever the reason for your move, do not be negative about a previous company or position. Remain positive and professional. Perhaps talk about your desire to gain more experience, to get some exposure to a different type of business, or that there was no room for you to develop your career any further in a previous role. Show ambition and a genuine desire to succeed.
6 - What are your biggest weaknesses?
One of the harder questions, as when you are trying to sell yourself you do not want to present any negatives. Be clever and either talk about a weakness that is really a strength, ‘I don’t like saying no’, or ‘I get annoyed if a project is not achieved by the deadline’; (although be well aware your interviewer has probably heard them all before), or talk about an honest weakness that you are currently trying to overcome.
7 - What are your strengths?
This is a key question, as of course all the employer really wants to understand is what you can bring to the table and why you are better than anyone else. It can be uncomfortable reeling off all that you are good at but will stand you in good stead if you can. Again align your strengths with the position in question. There is no point talking about what a fantastic manager you are if you’re not applying for a management job. And ensure they are skills you do possess as you may be asked to demonstrate an example of this strength put to practice. You could talk about project management, sales skills, time keeping, attention to detail, understanding client needs or that you are very personable and able to establish good relationships easily.
8 - Where do you see yourself in five years?
The interviewer wants to understand your career goals and future aspirations. Here you want to communicate that you have aspirations to be successful in your next role, (ideally the role you are interviewing for) and that you are looking for a career, somewhere to grow and develop and learn new skills but utilise those you already have. Recruitment is a lengthy task so employers only want to hire people who they have a sense are motivated and passionate about the job they are being interviewed for and don’t just see it as a stopping gap.
9 - How would one of your friends describe you in three words?
Here is an opportunity for you to share traits that would make you an asset to the organisation you are interviewing for. Hard-working, loyal, determined, ambitious, flexible, trust-worthy are all good examples. Again you may be asked for an example of how you have previously demonstrated that trait. In preparation, think back to any reviews, reference letters or LinkedIn endorsements that can reinforce your claims.
10 - Can you tell us one of your greatest achievements at work?
This is another behavioural question that will rely on you demonstrating previous accomplishments. This is a great one to be asked as you are leading the conversation and you have the opportunity to talk about something that you feel very proud of and could set you apart from your competitors. If you solved a business challenge, be sure to paint the picture, giving the background/ challenge, so your solution is clearly seen. And as with many of the other questions, try and take an achievement that could potentially, or something similar be used in the role you are applying to; for example, I implemented new seasonal marketing campaigns and generated £x revenue from them; which is something we could employ here.
11 - How do you deal with pressure and stress at work?
This is all about understanding how you deal with difficult situations and stress within the workplace. Everybody will feel stress at some time, so avoid saying that you never experience stress. Rather more, acknowledge stress at work happens and that when you feel it, what methods you employ to defer it and get the most of the situation.
12 - What motivates you?
Here, make sure that anything you do say, you can back up with something relevant to you, i.e. if you say ‘working as part of team’, you would ideally have experience of that. Other answers could be, meeting set targets or deadlines, mentoring or managing other people, introducing new ideas to your team or learning new things. And whilst money of course is a motivator for many of us, don’t communicate that here – unless you are in sales and hitting/exceeding your targets is your key motivator!
13 - What are your salary expectations?
This is a question that will most likely come up at the later stages of the recruitment process. The best answer here is to say that you are flexible. It is also advisable to have done some research yourself so you know roughly a ballpoint figure that you could expect. There will be an available budget set and if you are realistic as to what it is you can’t go too wrong. Don’t be over zealous and reach for the sky as you will seem greedy but also don’t under cut your value and appear desperate. Know your value and what you would settle on and what would make you walk. If you are uncomfortable handling the question this way, turn it round to ask them what they would typically expect to pay someone with your experience and background.
14 - What do you like doing outside of work?
This is a good question for an interviewer to understand if you are good cultural fit for them and also to show more of your personal side. Remember you are still in an interview so remain professional and omit any anecdotes best left for the pub!
15 - Do you have any questions for us?
As much as an interview is about you selling yourself, the company also needs to sell itself to you and demonstrate it is a good fit for YOU. This question can be prepared in advance when doing your research on the company. You can ask them about past successes, great achievements, their 6 month strategy/ plan, about the team and structure of the team, career progression or what sort of person they are looking to hire for this role.